|A Clear Look at Sundial Systems||- by Christopher B. Wright|
Amidst rumors of an upcoming Warp 4.1 release, an update to Word Pro '96, a soon to be released office suite update from Star Division, and speculation on the Corel Java Suite, Sundial Systems is quietly preparing to release the next version of the Clearlook Word Processor.
This new release, version 2.0, should include new paragraph formatting controls, a new user interface, and some invisible, though significant, changes in the underpinnings of the program that will pave the way for future updates and refinements.
Sundial Systems, best known for its Relish Personal Information Manager software, has been acquiring some impressive technology over the past year. Along with its venerable PIM, it has also acquired a word processor, Clearlook, a spreadsheet, Mesa/2, and a relational database, DB Expert, as members of its growing family of software products.
All of these products are being updated, revised, and prepared for new releases. Most seem to be slated for some significant enhancements, though due to the recent abandonment of OpenDoc by IBM and Apple, not all previously planned features will be included. This article is a brief taste of things to come and a glimpse into the possibility of what's in store for one of OS/2's oldest ISV's.
Sundial has indicated that it will be releasing an announcement concerning the direction of their software, and that it might include a "suite-like offering".
For those of you who were attracted to Clearlook by its small footprint and speed, fear not: Sundial is just as interested as you are in keeping it small and fast. In fact, Sundial is holding off on some popularly requested features (notably, irregularly shaped frames) because of speed concerns.
Many of the changes in the latest Clearlook will be aimed at making it a little more user friendly for people who are used to the layout of other word processors. Sundial is altering the user interface to make it more customizable (for example, customizable toolbars) and closer to the UI's of other popular word processing programs. Also, some tools like mail merge are being updated and improved.
The way Clearlook handles formatted text is also changing. Clearlook 2.0 will include more complex paragraph formatting controls, primarily to make importing and exporting to other word processor formats easier and more accurate. In terms of document filters, for the 2.0 release Sundial is concentrating on improved Rich Text Format and perhaps HTML formats. Other document formats are planned but are more difficult to achieve due to the differences between Clearlook and other word processors. Altering the "plumbing" (as described above) should make it easier for more formats to be included in the future, though.
How frame creation and manipulation are handled is also being modified to make those tasks easier. On the other hand, Clearlook will not be including, at least for the moment, high-end desktop publishing features like irregularly shaped frames. While Sundial isn't ruling out any of these features, they are concerned about two things:
a) the relevance of these features with the surge in web-based publishing, and
b) the performance hit on the program if they were included.
At this point in time, Sundial doesn't seem to have made up its mind about irregular frames, but they are not planned for version 2.0 (or 2.1, for that matter) so don't expect to see them soon.
[Our Sponsor: Keller Group Inc. - Developers of FaxWorks for OS/2 and PMfax.]
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